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Important Step Forward on Waters of the U.S. Rule

We are pleased to announce that the Trump administration today released its proposed new definition for “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) that will resolve years of uncertainty over where federal jurisdiction begins and ends. This represents an important victory for our members.

By bringing certainty and clarity to which waters fall under federal oversight, this proposal – when finalized – should help accelerate the permitting process so home builders can more easily provide safe and affordable housing. With the nation in the midst of a housing affordability crisis, this announcement is also good news for home buyers.

The revised rule would address many of the serious concerns that NAHB had over the Obama-era regulation that went so far as to regulate man-made ditches and isolated ponds on private property. Today’s proposal would exclude short-lived ponds, streams and tributaries that only flow in response to a rain event from federal regulation. It would also exclude wetlands that are not directly connected to federally regulated bodies of water.


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This new rule will help landowners to determine whether a project on their property will require a federal permit or not, without spending tens of thousands of dollars on engineering and legal professionals. This revised rule will protect our nation’s waterways and save home builders and other industries that rely on a predictable permitting process time and money.

NAHB CEO Jerry Howard attended the event announcing the proposal by Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler at EPA headquarters in Washington.

The proposal fulfills President Trump’s commitment to NAHB to end this federal overreach of the 2015 WOTUS rule. One of Trump’s earliest acts in office was to sign an executive order directing EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to begin the process of repealing and replacing the WOTUS rule. The action honored a campaign promise he made to the NAHB board of directors in 2016 when he was running for president.

The new rule announced today will be open to a public comment period for 60 days and is expected to be finalized and instituted in all 50 states by the fall of 2019.

In the meantime, because of multiple legal challenges, the Obama-era WOTUS rule remains in effect in 22 states and the District of Columbia; the previous regulation issued in 1986, together with subsequent agency guidance, is in effect in the remaining 28 states.

Further analysis on this proposal will be posted at nahb.org/wotus.

For more information, contact NAHB environmental policy analysts Michael Mittelholzer at 800-368-5242 x8660 or Evan Branosky at x8662.

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